Sunday, June 17, 2001

Day Four

Friends: For the first time since the festival started there was a late night/early morning screening of a film that I really wanted to see--"Cool and Crazy," a documentary about a men's glee club in a remote Norwegian fishing village. It won an award at the recent Rothenberg Film Festival. It would be playing at 3:15 a.m. in the high school gymnasium. It would be my only chance to see it unless it won the audience favorite, a strong possibility, but nothing to count on. An earlier screening had been canceled, so I was delighted to see, when I picked up the day's revised schedule, that it was being given a second chance.

So far I had successfully resisted staying up past one a.m., not a particularly easy thing to do when the sun is still shining brightly and I only feel a slight numbness of fatigue from already having seen five or six movies. I wanted to experience at least one of these super-matinee screenings, but I didn't want to jeopardize missing Peter Van Bagh's sensational ten a.m. discussion with a tributee. They are unfailingly a delight and a rare opportunity to get to know someone who has made a significant contribution to the world of cinema. I already had my day plotted out when I learned that "Cool and Crazy" had been added to the day's schedule. There wasn't a film I was willing to sacrifice for a nap. I'd just have to persevere and hope I still had some energy for "Cool and Crazy" at 3:15 am.

The day began with a most lively and invigorating discussion with Van Bagh and Jerry Schatzberg. As always, Van Bagh began at the beginning, asking, "What is the first movie you can remember seeing," and going on from there, trying to get as much of Schatzberg's life story as he could. At one point Schatzberg said, "I can't believe I'm remembering all this." It was at least half an hour into the conversation before he had made the transition from fashion and rock and roll photographer to film-maker. He spoke fondly of giving Al Pacino his first film role in "Panic at Needle Park"and the couple of months they spent researching New York's drug culture along with co-star Karen Witt, also in her first film. Such research rarely happens anymore he said. Witt went on to win the best actress award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival for her performance. Two years later Schatzberg won the Palm d'Or with "Scarecrow" starring Pacino and Gene Hackman. But Pacino wasn't happy with some of his scenes that were cut out and didn't speak to Schatzberg for two years.

The two-hour discussion was over almost before it had begun. The first movie of the day was Schatzberg's "Reunion" from 1989, a deeply moving story about the friendship between a couple of 17-year old boys in 1932 Stuttgart, one Jewish, the other gentile. It played in Competition at Cannes, though Schatzberg initially declined the honor. Coppola was to be the president of the jury and Schatzberg feared it would have no chance of winning because Coppola was the only American to have won two Palm d'Ors and he would want to keep it that way. But when Coppola bowed out and Billy Wilder replaced him, Schatzberg relented. But then Wilder bowed out too. Wim Wenders took over the role. Schatzberg said that was bad news, as the film wasn't exactly pro-German.

The next movie of the day was "The Pornographer," fresh from Cannes in May where it won the Fribsci award. Its a French Canadian production about a 50-year old director of pornography played by a paunchy Jean-Pierre Leaud. He is retired from the business, but needs money and goes back to make one more film. His younger assistants don't have much respect for him. It is a film to look forward to. Then someone from the Munich film archives gave a 90-minute presentation of fragments of films left by Orson Welles including "The Merchant of Venice." It was a rare treat to see such footage, even though much of it wasn't in the best of shape.

Another rare treat was the 1925 Russian silent film "Jewish Happiness" under the Big Top with a piano accompaniment and introduced by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice. At 10:30 I followed it with the Iranian film "The Circle," winner of the best film at Venice. It too was exceptional. At one a.m. it was time for the 3D glasses under the circus tent for "Flesh for Frankenstein." That was out at 2:45 a.m. and I wasn't even yawning. There were eighteen stalwarts for "Cool and Crazy" at 3:15. We were rewarded by a very rousing film. It would have been impossible to nod off in it.

Later, George

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